Good communication starts early, and the way you talk (and listen) with your child will affect the dynamic between you when they become older. Establishing good communication at an early age will lead to a more open relationship later on.
To open up the lines of communication with a preschooler, try doing bond-strengthening activities together. Mom and educator Mimi Lichterman says that doing things you enjoy together can be a great way to develop the bond between you and your child. Include them in things you love to do - let them help cook a meal or take a short hike with you. Make time to do things that are personal and special to your child, too. Pay attention to the things your child is passionate about and plan an outing that revolves around those interests. Nurturing this special connection between just the two of you will encourage your child to express their thoughts and feelings to you without being prompted.
Preschoolers tend to have a fairly short attention span, and they learn more by what is modeled to them than what they are told. You can help by modeling your own good communication skills. Pay special attention to the way you talk to your spouse, other family members, and friends.
Give kids the tools they need to express themselves. This might mean teaching them some “feeling words” to help them vocalize their thoughts. Psychologist Chris Fulton recommends role-playing for kids who have an especially tough time communicating. If this feels too awkward or forced, you can use movies or stories to help open up a dialog about issues in your own lives. Find moments when you can use the situation at hand as a way to lead in to a non-intimidating discussion between and your child.
Another way to foster a communicative relationship, says psychologist and author Edwin A. Locke, is to listen without lecturing. A child needs to know that it is safe for them to share things with you without fear of being reprimanded or judged. You can achieve this by quelling the urge to interject while your child is speaking and by just allowing them to talk while you quietly listen. Simply being a good listener is one of the easiest and most effective ways you can establish good communication with your child.
Nurturing your bond with each child and modeling good communication now will pay off as your child grows into the difficult teenage years. If you have established a good rapport with one another in earlier years, they will be more prone to confide in you when they are older.